Saturday, 24 April 2010

How successful was Stalin's economic reforms? Explain your answer. [12]

When Stalin assumed power in the USSR by the second half of 1920s, he began to introduce economic reforms with the main intention of transforming the USSR from a backward country to a modern one.

Main Body:
Stalin's economic reforms were successful in industrialising the Soviet Union. With his Five-Year Plans, there was rapid expansion of the Soviet Union's heavy industries. For example, steel production increased from 4 million tonnes in 1928 to 17.7 million tonnes in 1937. The coal production also jumped from 35.4 million tonnes to 128 million tonnes during the same period. The Soviet Union also improved on its transport and communication networks. In addition, industries were no longer concentrated in the Western part of the country, as more factories were built on the Eastern part. All these were important for a huge country like the Soviet Union. On the whole, the Soviet Union became the second most industrialised country in the world by 1940. There was an increase in the production of consumer goods as well, especially after 1935. In agriculture, farming became modernised as the introduction of collective farms allowed the government to introduce modern farming tools to all peasants, such as tractors.

Stalin's economic reforms had less success in the area of agricultural production. As collectivisation involved a great degree of force, there were resistance from the peasants. In retaliation, uncooperative peasants were sent to labour camps or killed. In addition, the forced collectivisation also led to the large destruction of crops and livestock. These eventually led to an outbreak of famine that cost the lives of about 10 million peasants. Agricultural output also did not increase with the introduction of collectivisation. For example, grain harvest only increased slightly from 73.3 million tonnes in 1928 to 75 million tonnes in 1935. The number of cattle dropped from 70.5 million heads to 49.3 million heads during the same period. All these demonstrated the limitations brought about by collectivisation. For industrialisation, the focus on meeting the quantitative targets meant that, very often, the quality of the industrial products were not up to mark.

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